Brewers Pitcher Brent Suter

A “TREE HUGGER’’ ON A MISSION

By Jerry Crasnick

For a guy with size 15 feet, Brent Suter has a tiny ecological footprint. He drives an electric car, lives in a house with solar panels on the roof, shops for locally sourced, organic food and has eliminated red meat, pork and most fish from his diet. He cleans his windows and countertops with reusable cloth towels, composts his junk mail and household scraps, and drops Blueland tablets into his water for soap and cleaning products to reduce his reliance on plastic.

Environmentally speaking, he walks the walk.

“We still have a ways to go in terms of minimizing our waste, but we’re definitely trying to get there,’’ Suter said. “You hear about those people who go through like a jar of trash for the year? That’s the goal for us.’’

Entering his fifth season with the Milwaukee Brewers, Suter had big plans for Earth Day. He’s teamed up with SC Johnson, the Wisconsin-based cleaning products company, on local river cleanups and several other initiatives, and was looking to build on the momentum from 2019, when he made reusable water bottles a go-to item in the Brewers’ clubhouse.

He’s written about his experiences for the Outrider Foundation, coined a hashtag (#StrikeoutWaste), and will join Hunter Pence and 20 other athletes in an Earth Day educational campaign this week in partnership with the Nature Conservancy. He never misses an opportunity to encourage fellow citizens to do their part -- no matter how miniscule it may seem.

“If one person inspires one other person, and that person inspires one other person, soon enough you have a lot of people doing little things to add up to big things,’’ Suter said. “Maybe it leads to a green revolution at one point. We’re all one living system, and there’s a chain effect. One person isn’t going to stop the tidal wave. But every action has a direct consequence to nature and humanity.

“We’re all one system, one earth, one planet. Whatever you do is helping somebody down the line.’’

Now that the Covid-19 pandemic has confined him to his Cincinnati home with his wife, Erin, and their 18-month-old son, Liam, Suter has more modest goals in mind. He’s begun planting a garden -- growing carrots, tomatoes, broccoli, zucchini and cauliflower with organic, non-GMO seeds -- while dabbling in aquaponics, a system that uses fish waste to fertilize plants, which in turn clean the water for the fish.

In his Twitter bio, Suter describes himself as “Husband, Human and Dog Father. Jesus Follower and Tree Hugger.’’ He uses his platform to share a simple message: One person can’t change the world, but it’s a good place to start.

“Earth Day is definitely going to be different this year,’’ Suter said. “We were hoping to do a bunch of things with the team on the field, and that went kaput. But people can still do individual cleanups and reconnect with nature. This virus has been devastating, but it’s made us realize we’re not separate from nature by any means. We’re in the system and we need to treat it better.’’

Suter, 30, is among a committed group of baseball players who use their visibility to promote environmentally-friendly initiatives. Several are affiliated with Players for the Planet, an organization founded by former Cincinnati Reds outfielder Chris Dickerson and Houston Astros pitcher Jack Cassel in 2007 to educate athletes and fans on the importance of recycling and reducing plastic waste. The group has since assumed a broader mandate and encompasses athletes from football, water polo, surfing, track and field and several other sports.

“Brent is like the Curtis Granderson of Players for the Planet,’’ Dickerson said. “Anything we have going on, we always run it by him first. He can speak to the guys and encourage them to get involved. He has a charismatic attitude and dedication to the cause that make him easy to get behind.’’

Suter’s passion for environmental causes took root in 2006, when he watched Al Gore’s climate-change documentary “An Inconvenient Truth’’ at the urging of his mother He graduated from Harvard University in 2012 with a degree in environmental science and public policy, and continues to seek out knowledge from a variety of sources. At the moment, he’s urging all his friends to check out “The Biggest Little Farm,’’ a 2018 documentary about a married couple who moved to California to start a sustainable farm on 200 acres outside Los Angeles.

Three of Suter’s Milwaukee teammates -- Corey Knebel, Keston Hiura and Ryan Braun -- have embraced the cause. In January, Braun, Christian Yelich and Mike Moustakas helped host the second annual California Strong fundraiser to raise money for victims of the California wildfires and other area tragedies. Their charity softball game at Pepperdine University took place while bushfires were destroying an estimated 46 million acres of land in Australia.

“Droughts will happen naturally, and there will be oversaturation of water,’’ Suter said. “But with climate change, those peaks and valleys are heightened and extended. Australia was experiencing super droughts and super hot conditions right up until the forest fires. It was basically a gas can where the pressure was building and building. The same in California.’’

Suter’s activism extends to oceans as well as forests. In December, he traveled to the Dominican Republic and helped Dickerson, Nelson Cruz and dozens of other MLB players and volunteers clean up more than 400 pounds of plastic, styrofoam and other debris from the beaches of Montesinos and Fort San Gil. Ten years after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, Suter remains concerned that off-shore drilling and relaxed oversight could enhance the risk of another environmental disaster.

An Earth Day conversation with Brent Suter and Chris Dickerson
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